By The Nursezone Writing Staff
Childbirth is a beautiful life experience, but it’s not always a pleasant process. Fortunately, labor and delivery nurses
have the knowledge and skills to guide patients through such a momentous occasion. It’s exciting and high-pressure all at once, but thanks to their training, labor and delivery nurses can handle even the most stressful situations. They faithfully support their patients throughout the birthing process, checking in on both the mother and infant’s health, coordinating care with obstetricians, and educating parents on what to expect.
A labor and delivery nurse’s education never truly ends; there are always new things to learn and novel ways to improve your skills in order to better serve your patients. Want to stay up to date with your training? Learn more about labor and delivery nurse certifications.
What it Takes to Become a Labor and Delivery Nurse
Being a labor and delivery nurse is a privilege that requires years of studying. However, enduring the rigorous schooling and vetting processes are just the bridge taking you to a fulfilling career helping bring new lives into this world.
In brief, the requirements to work as a labor and delivery nurse are a nursing degree, a nursing licensure, a Basic Life Support certification, and an Advance Cardiac Life Support certification. Other certifications like the Inpatient Obstetric Nursing and Neonatal Resuscitation Program certification are not necessary to work in labor and delivery units, however, they do give nursing candidates a competitive edge when it comes to hiring and salary negotiations.
Below, we’ll cover these things in more detail.
All nurses require a degree from an accredited university that offers either an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) program, or a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN) program. The ADN program only takes up to 2 years to complete and can be taken through an online platform, however, the 4-year BSN program can make graduates more competitive candidates for nursing positions.
Both programs expose students to the different nursing fields, prepare them for the nursing licensure exam, and teach a variety of health science topics like nutrition, psychology, pharmacology, anatomy, and physiology. There are also hands-on nursing skills clinics to practice patient interactions.
The BSN program takes longer to complete as it delves deeper into comprehensive health topics like public health, management and leadership, nursing research, and social sciences. Armed with this additional knowledge, BSN-prepped nurses have a more holistic understanding of patient care and management, as well as greater opportunities for career advancement.
Accelerated Academic Path
Registered nurses who have already completed a 2-year program can later enroll in accelerated academic paths to earn a BSN degree. These RN to BSN programs are designed to work around a busy nurse’s schedule and can be completed in 9 to 18 months. Some nurses can receive financial assistance from their employers to pursue further education.
Before nurses can become specialized as labor and delivery nurses, they must first become registered nurses. In order to do so they must apply for licensure through their state’s board of nursing. The licensure process is an important means to ensure all nurses have the necessary competencies to perform their duties. Applicant’s skills and knowledge must satisfy predetermined criteria. Without this stringent regulation, patients’ lives would be at risk.
Applications are generally accepted after three steps: verification of graduation from a nursing program, verification of successful completion of the National Council Licensure exam, and in some states, passing a criminal background check.
National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN)
The NCLEX is how nursing boards assess whether an applicant has the expertise necessary to engage in nursing practice. Many see this test as the nursing gatekeeper; all nursing program graduates must pass the NCLEX before becoming registered nurses. Nursing students spend most of their time diligently studying to prepare for it, and in 2018, 73% of candidates passed the exam
The test consists of 4 major categories: physiological integrity, safe and effective care environment, health promotion and maintenance, and psychosocial integrity. Subcategories include: management of care, safety and infection control, basic care and comfort, pharmacological and parental therapies, reduction of risk potential, and physiological adaptation. Questions can target both recall abilities and critical thinking.
Each question depends on how the previous question was answered so a test taker may be given between 75 and 265 questions. Regardless of the number of questions, each test taker has a maximum of 6 hours to complete the exam.
The Nursing Licensure Compact (NLC)
In some states like California, Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii, a unique nursing license is required. For example, if a Californian Nurse wanted to work in Washington, they would need to reapply for Washington state nursing license. However, 25 states have entered an agreement known as the Nursing Licensure Compact (NLC). States in the NLC have agreed that only one nursing license is required to work within their states. If you’re unsure of where you want to settle down or are considering travel nursing, then it may be best to apply for licensure in a state that is part of the NLC.
Required Basic Life Support (BLS) Certification
The Basic Life Support certification is offered by the American Heart Association. You can take it in a fully in-person classroom setting or a blended setting where online training is accompanied with a hands-on session.
The course takes approximately 4.5 hours to complete and covers the following topics: CPR for adults, children, and infants; American Heart Association’s Chain of Survival; how to use an automated external defibrillator; rescue breaths and barrier devices; team-oriented multirescuer resuscitation; and choking relief for adults and infants.
After 2 years have passed, a 3-hour long update course must be completed to maintain certification.
Required Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) Certification
The Advanced Cardiac Life Support certification is also provided through the American Heart Association. Like the BLS course, it can be taken in a classroom setting or a blended setting. The purpose of this course is to build upon the foundation of lifesaving skills introduced in BLS, highlighting how to perform continuous, high-quality CPR.
This course requires approximately 15.5 hours to complete and reviews how to: effectively perform chest compressions, utilize bag-mask devices, and use an AED; recognize and manage respiratory and cardiac arrest, as well as per-arrest conditions such as symptomatic bradycardia; manage obstructed airways, ACS, and strokes; and Communicate and collaborate with resuscitation teams.
Certification renewal is required every 2 years. The update course is approximately 8.5 hours long.
Inpatient Obstetric Nursing (RNC-OB) Certification
Following a minimum amount of experience hours in a specialized field, the National Certification Corporation (NCC) certifications provide assurance that a nurse is proficient in that area of expertise. The RNC-OB is one type of NCC certification achieved by nurses that have demonstrated competency in the labor and delivery field. However, there are other NCC certifications available in specialties like maternal newborn nursing (RNC-MNN), low risk neonatal nursing (RNC-LRN), and neonatal intensive care nursing (RNC-NIC).
To be eligible for the RNC-OB, labor and delivery nurses must have at least 2000 hours of clinical labor and delivery experience, 2 years of specialty experience, and recent work in the specialty. The certification is awarded after paying $325 and passing a 3-hour test, consisting of 175 questions. It’s expected that RNC-OB certified nurses are well-versed in the best practices for labor, C-section births, anesthetics, and pharmacology.
When it comes to the salary of labor and delivery nurses
, they can expect to see a substantial increase in salary after becoming certified as RNC-OB. According to Advance Healthcare Network’s “2018 Nursing Salary Guide”, non-certified labor and delivery nurse salaries average $76,614 a year while certified labor and delivery nurses average $82,992 a year. With an average salary increase of approximately $6,000 after a $325 investment, becoming a certified labor and delivery nurse is highly advised.
Electronic Fetal Monitoring (C-EFM)
Electronic Fetal Monitoring Subspecialty Certification is another certificate offered by the NCC. Its purpose is to demonstrate a healthcare professional’s adeptness at applying electronic fetal monitoring and interpreting its data.
The only requirement to be eligible is to hold a current licensure as a physician, registered nurse, nurse practitioner, nurse midwife, physician assistant, or paramedic in the U.S. or Canada. The fees total $210 and the exam lasts 2 hours, consisting of 125 multiple choice questions.
Neonatal Resuscitation Program (NRP) Certification
The Neonatal Resuscitation Program (NRP) was developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The course aims to foster effective team-based care among healthcare professionals who’re involved with the delivery of newborns. Composed of online case-based simulations, online testing, and hands-on workshops, this course emphasizes how leadership and communication contribute to effective neonatal resuscitation.
Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)
Some people mistakenly believe that a certified labor and delivery nurse (RNC-OB) is the same as a certified nurse midwife. In reality, certified nurse midwives require much more formal training and are able to perform further care. It can take a minimum of 8 years to become a CNM: 4 years for a BSN, 1 year of nursing experience, and 3 years in a nurse midwifery program.
After all this training, CNMs are considered advanced practice registered nurses (APRN). They have the ability to test for STDs, counsel new parents, monitor fertility, perform gynecological examinations, prescribe medications, and of course, deliver babies.
Why Become a Labor and Delivery Nurse?
After learning about all the education and certifications required of labor and delivery nurses, you may be wondering whether the vocation is worth the hassle? In short, if you have a passion for women and infant healthcare, then the labor is absolutely worthwhile. The following are a few reasons why labor and delivery nursing is an ideal career for dedicated individuals.
Labor and delivery nurses have a flexible career. Their experience with mother and infant care paves the way for many other career paths. Exploring related specialties like neonatal intensive care nursing
or pediatric nursing
can easily be arranged. Taking on more responsibilities like managerial charge nursing is possible after a few years of work experience. Or, by furthering their education, labor and delivery nurses can earn nurse practitioner titles.
There’s also the opportunity of travel nursing
. Agencies like American Mobile will coordinate a short-term contract for labor and delivery nurses to work in locations where demand is high. They’re provided with a competitive wage, free housing, partial reimbursements, and medical, dental, and liability insurance. Travel nursing is the perfect solution for those with wanderlust.
Strong Job Prospects
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the registered nursing sector is projected to grow by 15% from 2016 to 2026. A generation of retiring nurses means labor and delivery nurses will enjoy high demand, strong job security, generous benefits and competitive salaries. This is a profession where experience truly pays off. Payscale reports that entry-level labor and delivery nurses that start off making $25.54 per hour, have the potential to earn up to $37.67 per hour after 20 years of experience.
Most lists of labor and delivery nurse duties
will include a variation of the following: time contractions, help administer medication and epidural, monitor vitals of mother and baby, etc. However, what they fail to mention is how emotionally connected you’ll feel after supporting your patient and her family throughout the labor process. Though you may never cross paths with your patients after they leave the hospital, you’ll always have a special bond with them.
The Significance of Certifications
The certifications required for this career may seem like inessential hoops to jump through, however, they prepare you for life-threatening emergencies. Labor and delivery nurses have a responsibility to their patients to stay up to date with their training and take these certifications seriously. Nursing certifications are testaments of a nurse’s commitment to service and competencies in healthcare.